Students See Potential Through Waste Audit

“There’s so much paper!” was a common exclamation during last week’s waste audit with PEAK gifted and talented students between grades 3 and 6.

To a child, trash is one big category that means “unusable stuff” that gets sent “away.” I was excited to have the opportunity to work with some very bright students to figure out what exactly were were sending “away” and if there was something else we could do with those materials. I knew we would find recyclables in the trash bags, but I never expected to find so much!

The waste we assessed originated in an office building that has recycling bins available for paper, metals, plastics, and cardboard. Despite the opportunity to recycle these items, much of it still ended up in the trash.

Waste Summary:
48% recyclable paper
42% trash
7%   compostable food waste
1%   metal
1%   cardboard
1%   plastics

57% of the trash could have been recycled or composted and it really confused some students that adults mismanaged these materials. It is a good sign that kids can see the proper way to deal with our “stuff,” rather than burying it in a landfill. We may not have everything figured out, but we’re moving in the right direction.

-Rob Pudner, Recycling Educator